The Hockey Basics from a Columbus Blue Jackets Fan- Part 1

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 05: The Columbus Blue Jackets logo is shown before a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 5, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 05: The Columbus Blue Jackets logo is shown before a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 5, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Being a Columbus  Blue Jackets fan is an amazing experience but the rules to hockey can be downright confusing. Take it from someone who was lost just a few years ago.

I joined the hockey world about four years ago with no knowledge of the sport but loved the fast pace and the aggressiveness shown on the ice. To say the least, it was love at first sight. I brought my wife to a Columbus Blue Jackets game and she was hooked as well so we decided to pick up half season tickets in 2014-2015 and have renewed them ever since.

When we first started watching the game we tried to figure out the rules by just watching. That was an epic failure from the start. The rules for hockey aren’t black and white so there was no chance as sometimes there would be icing and sometimes not for basically the same thing. I figured that I would take a few minutes and try to break down the absolute basics so that no one else has to go through what I did.

I will start with some terms that are a little different than in other sports. The game is broken into three 20 minute periods. I hear people call them quarters all the time and it causes long time fans to look down on them. Save yourself the trouble and remember to call them periods.

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The jerseys that the players wear are actually called sweaters. If you want to impress long time hockey fans then this is your “in”. So many people call them jerseys that it has become socially acceptable (at least in Columbus) but it always seems to impress people when you name them correctly as sweaters.

The season is 82 games long with 16 teams going into the playoffs for the Stanley Cup after the 82 games are played.The way that the 16 teams are decided are a little confusing so I will get into those in a later piece. 41 of the games are played at home and 41 are played on the road skating on other team’s ice. Each team has one sweater that they wear on their home ice and then an alternate one that is for away ice. The Columbus Blue Jackets home sweater color is blue and then the away color is white.


Icing is one of the most confusing rules in the game but is absolutely required to understand the game so I will try to break it down. There are colored lines on the ice that include a red line at the center of the rink and then the goal line(the line that runs through the net to the walls). Those are the only 2 lines that are important to icing so ignore the rest for now. If a team throws the puck from behind the red line at center ice and it crosses the defending teams goal line without the opposing team touching it then the play is blown dead. The puck is then taken back to the attacking end of the ice and the defending team is not allowed to change players on the ice. This was created as a way to keep the flow of the game going at a reasonable pace and to make it harder for a defending team to stop an attack on their goal.

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As if this wasn’t quite confusing enough there are those gray areas that aren’t quite black and white. If the official believes that a defending player could have played the puck before it crossed the goal line then they can “wave it off” meaning that play does not stop. An icing can also be cancelled if an attacking player is ahead of the defenseman by the time they reach the faceoff dots. The last reason that play can continue on an icing is if the attacking team is on a power play. If you are short a man for a penalty then you are able to ice the puck as a way to slow down the man advantage and get a new line onto the ice.

If there is an icing of the puck the punishment is not only that the play stops. It also means that the team that iced the puck must keep the people already on the ice out for the faceoff. A lot of times the reason that an icing occurs is that the defenders are getting tired from a sustained attack and just want to get a line change. This reasoning makes an icing penalty carry a lot of weight, as it takes the puck right back where you wanted to get it out of. The league has even taken it one step further this year by taking away the ability to call a timeout by the icing team. Up until this year, if the team was super tired, the coach would call a timeout after an icing so that the team could take a rest. New rules this year have made it so that no time out can be called by the team that iced the puck.

Icing is one of the more confusing parts of hockey and also the most common reason that the whistle is blown to stop play. If you can wrap your head around the icing rule then you are well on your way to being a seasoned hockey fan. You will start to notice that the game makes more sense and it is easier to get into the game when you know what is going on.

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If there is something that you would like me to cover as part of this series just let me know in the comments below. There is always more to learn about the rules no matter how much you know about hockey so if you want to know, just ask.